The Law Office of Robert L. Firth - August 2020 760-770-4066

Helping clients with bankruptcy, estate planning, and tax resolution.


Funding Your Living Trust How to Safely Transfer and Handle Your Living Trust

Most of the people who read this newsletter have created a living trust. If you’re one of these people, you may recall that when we created the trust, I reviewed the responsibilities you have to fully implement it. Nevertheless, I find that from time to time, it’s a good idea to review the trust’s funding instructions so we can ensure it works how you want it to. So, let’s go through the types of property and assets most people own and how to adequately fund your living trust to make it as effective as possible. Money Markets and Bank/Credit Union Accounts Re-title all money market, saving, and checking accounts to the name of your living trust. However, there is no need to change how your checks are printed. Some credit unions require that you use a “transfer on death” designation rather than a re-title. The “certification of trust,” found at the third tab of your living trust documents will show the financial institution exactly how the account should be titled. Note: If the account is an IRA, see below. Life Insurance and Annuity Contracts As a general rule, name your spouse as your primary beneficiary and your living trust as the contingent beneficiary. It’s essential to periodically review the beneficiary designation on your life insurance and annuity contracts, especially in the case of divorce or upon the creation of your living trust. If my word isn’t convincing enough, listen to this story of a customer who didn’t do his due diligence. The client and I had to create an emergency living trust for his father. The trust was signed at the hospital, and the father passed away two weeks later. However, when the son reviewed the paperwork, he found an old life insurance policy with a death benefit of $35,000 that was

only payable to his father’s first wife, whom he’d divorced over 20 years prior. According to the contract, the life insurance company was obliged to pay the beneficiary. The irony was that the former wife was in a nursing home in Wyoming, living on state Medicaid. So, the insurance payout went to the state of Wyoming to pay for the nursing home bills.

IRAs, 401(k)s, and Other Qualified Benefit Plans

As a rule of thumb, name your spouse as the primary beneficiary and the living trust as the contingent beneficiary. Depending on your age and financial situation, though, this may not apply. If you read last month’s newsletter, you may recall that the IRS has changed the distribution rules for qualified retirement plans. If you have a substantial individual retirement account, consult your tax accountant or financial advisor to figure out the best way to designate your beneficiaries to reduce taxes when you die. Stock Brokerage Accounts, Registered Limited Partner Interests, and Other Non- IRA Accounts Re-title the accounts to the name of your living trust. Take one of your certifications of trust to your stockbroker who can help you. These days, I don’t see many stock certificates, but if you have one in your possession, I urge you to get those into a brokerage account. It will make your life easier and eliminate many problems you may have if the certificates are lost, stolen, or burned in a fire. Real Estate As a rule, all real estate should be owned by your living trust, and I have prepared deeds for those properties which you owned when we set up your trust. I strongly urge you to take a trip to the county recorder’s office to get your deeds recorded if you haven’t already.

Also, be aware of this common trap when refinancing a property: The escrow company will take the property out your living trust during refinancing. They do this because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration prohibit them from accepting a loan on a property that’s in a living trust. Then, they should make a new deed and transfer it back to the trust. Unfortunately, though, I’ve found that they rarely do so. If you’re refinancing any of your real estate, please call my office and I’ll explain what you need to do. As always, if you have any questions about funding your trust, please don’t hesitate to call my office. In the future, we will discuss more about financing your trust. Stay safe, and see you next month.

-Robert L. Firth Helping clients with bankruptcy, estate planning, and tax resolution. | 1

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the U.S. justice system. However, protecting data across borders poses an increasing challenge. Cooperation among international government regulators may be more common for private plaintiffs’ counsel, but globalization and shifting feelings about nationalism can interfere with the strict standards of electronic data privacy and security. This means complex cases must rely on a proactive and professionally managed data strategy plan. Second, due to tremendous political polarization over the past few decades, local relationships are more important than ever . U.S. states, counties, and municipalities have become more independent, and “it’s more common for ills to be litigated independently at all levels of government,” Neath says. The affected U.S. Gulf Coast states and surrounding counties each influenced the outcome of the Deepwater Horizon claims. Since the oil spill, we have recognized the importance of carefully considering the relationships between each party. Third, Deepwater Horizon has popularized the creation of internal business functions

Although not many people realize it, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill greatly affected many aspects of the legal systemwe rely on today. The head of litigation for BP at the time, James J. Neath, says the case was a “life-changing event.” For over a year and a half, BP’s large internal and external legal teams worked continuously on the crisis response 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Neath describes the workstream as “devoted to identifying, preserving, and ‘live- streaming’ video footage of the ongoing leak.” On top of the overwhelming data, public actors from every level of government were involved. Furthermore, the case affected international claims ranging, according to Neath, from “class actions in Mexico to U.K. pension fund securities claims to litigation in the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court.”Neath adds that the sheer scale and reaction to this crisis pushed the legal industry in ways we can still see today. For one, the practice of law has rapidly globalized. Because the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case affected people nationally and internationally, it’s more common for victims outside the U.S. to seek compensation within

for investigating internal business safety and integrity. These departments are often established separately from the business to avoid any profit bias. Fourth, speed, professionalism, and expertise when handling data and technology in a legal operation have become more crucial than ever before. While investigations are “growing [in] importance,” even Neath believes that the “greatest challenge is data.”While he acknowledges that data experts often speak different languages, seasoned data professionals with legal backgrounds should still manage the data. With the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. legal system is better prepared to handle future hurdles that may come its way.

HOLD THE SALT Don’t Let Food Seasonings Sabotage Your Health

With so much emphasis on what foods you should eat to be healthy, it’s easy to overlook an important element of the cooking process: seasoning. You can find thousands of premixed seasonings on the market, and although adding dashes to your food seems inconsequential, the seasoning may actually turn your healthy foods into unhealthy foods. And the main culprit, in this case, is salt. Salt is a popular component of many premade seasonings because of its flavor-enhancing abilities. The label on your favorite mix should tell you exactly how much salt it contains. If it’s high on the ingredient list, you’re better off finding a substitute. High-sodium seasonings will promote water retention if used too liberally, which may lead to weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg of salt a day. Ideally, adults would consume only 1,500 mg of salt daily. Removing salt from your seasoning repertoire may be difficult because it does enhance flavor. But alternative spices, when paired with the right food, can be great substitutes and have numerous health benefits. Here are a few. • For beef: bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, pepper, sage, thyme • For chicken: marjoram, oregano, paprika, rosemary, tarragon, chili powder • For pork: garlic, onion, sage, pepper, oregano

• For fish: curry powder, dill, dry mustard, marjoram, paprika, pepper • For vegetables: pepper, parsley, cumin, dill, chives, basil, paprika

Try not to use more than 1/4 teaspoon of dried spice or 3/4 teaspoon of fresh spice per pound of meat or veggies. And for the best flavor, add ground spices to your food about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time. Add whole spices at least one hour before. Remember, salt doesn’t have to be the enemy — in moderation, it helps your body stay properly hydrated and helps deliver nutrients more efficiently. But too much can quickly lead to negative side effects, and with granules that are hard to see, it can be easy to go overboard. Instead, experiment with the hundreds of incredible spices available, and you might just open up a whole new world of great flavors and healthy habits.

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You see fun quizzes on Facebook all the time. What kind of dog breed matches your personality? What Disney princess are you most like? These can be fun to pass time or learn new things about yourself. However, did you know that social media quizzes aren’t actually safe? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned people that distractions on social media aren’t all harmless. In order to collect personal information, scammers can’t knock on your door and ask about your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street you grew up on. Intentionally, they design scams to attract your attention so you voluntarily give your information to them. They will ask common security questions that seem to relate to the subject matter, but in actuality, your answers are recorded for scammers to hack and steal your personal information later on. That’s why it pays to be skeptical . If you’re about to take a quiz, first ask yourself who created it. Do you trust them and the website it’s on? Even if the quiz seems outwardly innocent, it’s a risk. To prevent quizzes and potential scams from popping in your newsfeed, adjust your privacy settings and monitor friend requests . Is one of your friends adding you on a second account? Sometimes, scammers make imposter secondary accounts of people just to have access to their friends’ timelines. Not everyone monitors how much they post on Facebook; anyone can amass lots of invasive information just from scrolling down a profile. This brings us to our next point: Remove personal details from your profile . Nobody needs to know your phone number and home address by clicking around on your profile. Let the important people ask! It’s safer that way. Lastly, never give answers to common security questions . Why would a quiz need to know the name of your high school? No matter what, when you volunteer information online, there’s always risk. Best of luck, friends! There are lots of safe, authentic quizzes out there. How else are you supposed to know what Disney princess or dog breed you really are? ARE YOU QUIZ SAVVY? Beware of Social Media Quiz Scams


Inspired by The New York Times



1 lb fresh fettuccine

2 tbsp butter

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste

1 large egg yolk

1 lemon wedge



In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of generously salted water to a boil. In a large, deep skillet, while the water heats, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant and sizzling (about 2 minutes). In a bowl, whisk heavy cream and egg yolk until blended and pour into garlic butter. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir until hot, not boiling. Keep warm on low heat.


In the large pot, cook pasta until al dente. (The pasta will float once it’s done.) Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta. Pour hot pasta into creammixture and toss to coat on low heat. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano and keep tossing gently until cream is mostly absorbed. If the sauce is absorbed too much, toss with extra pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.






Serve with parsley and a squeeze of lemon. | 3

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68910 Adelina Rd. Cathedral City, CA 92234


Helping clients with bankruptcy, estate planning, and tax resolution.



Funding Your Living Trust

Legal Lessons From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Is Seasoning Sabotaging Your Health?


Restaurant-Style Fettuccine Alfredo Don’t Fall for These Social Media Quiz Scams



Meet the Man Who Stole the ‘Mona Lisa’


One hundred and nine years ago this month, one man — or was it three? — fled from the Louvre Museum in Paris, carrying what would quickly become the world’s most famous painting: Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Historical accounts of the theft agree only on who was the ringleader: 30-year-old Louvre handyman Vincenzo Peruggia. He was a house painter, an immigrant, the bearer of a glorious Monopoly Man mustache, and a vehement Italian patriot. At some point on the morning of Aug. 21, 1911, Peruggia lifted the glass case he himself had constructed to house the “Mona Lisa” and smuggled the painting from the building. Some versions of the story say Peruggia was assisted by two brothers, fellow Italian handymen Vincenzo and Michele Lancelotti. NPR reports the trio spent the night preceding the theft huddled in one of the Louvre’s supply closets, lying in wait

to steal the portrait. In his documentary about the theft, director Joe Medeiros claims Peruggia acted alone, driven by an obsession with the work and a dream of returning the painting to Italy. Either way, we know that Peruggia successfully spirited the painting back to his one-bedroom apartment. There it lay concealed in a false-bottomed trunk for more than two years. This period of mysterious absence (during which police grilled and dismissed Peruggia as a suspect in favor of J.P. Morgan, Pablo Picasso, and playwright Guillaume Apollinaire) is what made the “Mona Lisa”world famous. Peruggia was eventually caught attempting to sell the painting in Italy. He pleaded guilty and spent eight months in jail. After his release, he enlisted in the Italian army to fight in WorldWar I, surviving the war only to die of a heart attack on his 44th birthday.

Though Peruggia married after the war, some suspect that the true love of his life was the “Mona Lisa” herself. In a CNN article, author and art history professor Noah Charney speculates that over his two years with her, Peruggia developed romantic feelings for the portrait. Perhaps he fell victim to a kind of “reverse Stockholm syndrome,” Charney suggests, the captor falling in love with his hostage. “In this case,” he says, “the hostage was a work of art.”

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